Simon Bridges says he is striving to help New Zealand beneficiaries help themselves by calling for harsher sanctions on their payments from the Government.
Speaking on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, the National leader took aim at a rise in beneficiaries numbers over the last financial quarter, saying there has been a 'unfair" loosening of the rules to receive payments.
"I think it's pretty simple, it's about fairness. What we've seen under this Government is beneficiary numbers have risen by a couple of thousand in the last quarter as they say," Mr Bridges said.
"And the loosening of the rules, the penalties has also happened by about 20 per cent. You put that all together and I say that's unfair. It's unfair on taxpayers who work hard and expect to see their money well spent. But it's also not fair to the beneficiaries frankly.
"We should expect more of them, because someone who is seeking a job and gets a job is better esteemed, they have better purpose, and life outcomes. So we shouldn't be giving up on them and say 'hey, no, we've got no expectations, you just sit there on the dole, all is going to be OK'."
Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni denied the Government was encouraging New Zealanders to stay on a benefit over seeking work.
"We aren't going soft on beneficiaries, it's about making sure New Zealanders are accessing what they're eligible for, according to the existing policy," Ms Sepuloni said.
"Our focus is getting people into sustainable work, where people have the chance to be financially stable, and have the chance to better their situation."
Mr Bridges defended his party's harsher stance by citing numbers that 70,000 people went from benefits into work during the Key/English National era of 2011-17.
However, according to statistics from the Ministry for Social Development, there are actually 12,000 fewer people on beneficiaries now then when the Labour-led government came into power nine months ago.
There are also fewer Kiwis on a benefit now than in 2008, when John Key became Prime Minister.
However, Mr Bridges interpreted these numbers differently.
"Well 2008 of course was the global financial crisis, business was going to hell in a hand-basket back then," he said.
"The reality is if you compare the last year, the unemployment benefit, the job seeker support has gone up by about 4000.
"Now, I just don't think that's good enough. That's a few town halls full of people who's life outcomes won't be as good if we let them sit there."